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Heal your “sick” house with a green retrofit

February 27th, 2009

By Harriet Blake
Green Right Now

When a member of your family is sick, you probably call the doctor. But what about when your home is sick? Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters is probably not an option, but invisible house issues need to be dealt with.

A house might be considered “sick” if it never seems warm enough, cool enough or maybe has utility bills that are sky high.

That’s when you want to call in a specialist in sustainable home retrofitting. It’s a relatively new field, although bits and pieces of the industry have been around for a while, just not under one roof, so to speak.

Mike Rogers, senior vice president of GreenHomes America in Syracuse, N.Y. and Irvine, Ca., calls it one-stop shopping. And more and more companies are emerging that can handle the multitude of tasks required for a full home retrofit.

The timing seems right. In addition to advising clients, these “home performance” companies install systems such as solar panels and high efficiency furnaces that qualify for handsome tax rebates under the stimulus bill just passed by Congress.

Getting Started

Third party/independent energy audits or assessments can be a good starting point, says Rogers. But once the auditor has made his or her recommendations, where does the homeowner go from there?

“An assessment might recommend three different repairs involving three different trades. The homeowner must then go through the process of taking bids. And then how do you know which contractor is the best for the job?” says Rogers, who onced worked for the Environmental Protection Agency and helped create the EPA’s Home Performance with ENERGY STAR program.

His company provides the solution by working through the entire process, from assessment through installation, much like a remodeling contractor would, but with the emphasis on energy systems.

Matt Golden, founder of Sustainable Spaces, a home performance testing and retrofitting company in San Francisco, operates under a similar business model.

His company takes what the founder calls “a holistic approach” to home improvements, looking at the entire building before embarking on energy efficient repairs which they do themselves.

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